With an unceremonious exit from now former mayor Ed Murray, Bruce Harrell is now the Seattle mayor.
Harrell is the city's first Asian American mayor, if only for a few days. The former council president will now have five days to decide whether he'll continue to be mayor until November 28, when election results will be certified and the new mayor is sworn in. Harrell deciding to take the vacancy would mean giving up another two years on the council.
"Now is not the time for division or for taking sides. For me, it's a time for healing," Harrell said at a press conference held shortly before he was sworn in Wednesday afternoon.
Murray abruptly stepped down just two hours after The Seattle Times reported that a fifth man, Murray's cousin, has accused the Seattle mayor of sexual abuse. His departure leaves some unfinished business when he thought he'd have another few months of his term—namely, the budget cycle, KeyArena, and the HALA citywide rezoning. Murray didn't attend the swearing in and wrote a three-sentence resignation letter to the council Tuesday.
"We as a team will see the next remaining months as an opportunity to help define who and what Seattle is," Harrell said. "I don't see this as a caretaking obligation. I see this as an opportunity to set the stage for excellence."
Harrell has served on city council since 2008 representing District 2—which includes Beacon Hill, SoDo, and Chinatown/International District—and is the longest-sitting council member along with Burgess. Before he joined the council, he was a private practice attorney and served on the UW Alumni Board of Trustees; he graduated from UW both as an undergraduate and law school student and played football for the school when it won the Rose Bowl in 1978.
Harrell said he would decide by Friday whether he intends to stay mayor until November. If he declines, the council will need to vote on another council member to take executive office at its regular council meeting Monday. Tim Burgess and Lorena Gonzalez are the only one who would not have to give up years on the council in exchange for two months as mayor; both at-large seats are up for election this year.
Most of the council back in July, when there were four accusers, supported the mayor remaining in his position citing concerns for the transition. Harrell at the time said the voters "did not ask us to judge anyone for something that happened 33 years ago or that maybe didn't happen. We just don't know. ... I would challenge each of you to think about where you were 33 years ago. The question is are you doing your job today, right now?"
Harrell this week had a different message and spoke of the city's support for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. He said his July statement was taken out of context and that sometimes "I give people the benefit of the doubt" and believes a person should be judged if a heinous act is committed. The only council members who asked Murray to consider stepping down in July were Lorena Gonzalez and Kshama Sawant.
Updated September 13, 2017, at 7pm to include details on Harrell's decision and more background.